Chennai’s indie musicians tip their hats to creative collaborators

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The city’s popular singer-songwriters talk about the entire teams of people that put in weeks — or years — of effort into their popular releases

The city’s popular singer-songwriters talk about the entire teams of people that put in weeks — or years — of effort into their popular releases

One of the catchiest — and most comforting — numbers to come out of Chennai this year is a joint project by Manchild (Sachin Rajeev) from Kochi and Michael Timothy from Chennai, both based in the city. “I wrote the song in 2020, when I and a lot of people my age were going through a really hard time for personal and professional reasons. So I wrote about the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Manchild. 

At the end of a particularly haranguing day in June, Manchild turned to Instagram live and played ‘Better’. It was 3.30 am, but Michael was awake and heard him. “He sang the Malayalam version that night, so I didn’t understand it that much, but I still felt something because of the song. I called him after he wrapped up his live and said, ‘I don’t know what you plan to do with the song, but whatever it is, I want to produce it’.”

‘Better’, a song my Manchild and Michael Timothy

Another lockdown track that took its time taking shape is Mr Kev’s ‘Paathai’. “It was the first track we ever started writing for my Quarantino album, back in 2020. We had a very interesting time writing and trying to get the song right,” says city-based indie musician Mr Kev, about the song that eventually saw light of day in late March. 

The song, out on Mr Kev’s Spotify, YouTube and other channels, owes its release largely to five Chennai artistes: Kevin, Anand Kashinath, Vaisakh Somanath, Baidurjya Banerjee and Vinay Ramakrishnan. 

There is a reason this song took two years to take shape, even as the entire album it inspired, was ready within months. Many renditions were attempted and scrapped; many musicians lent their instruments to the number, before the creators found synergy in the final version. “We also owe it to a few other artistes who didn’t make it on the final version of the song: Madhav Nair who had played a bit of flute sections and Akkarsh N Kasyap who played some violin bits,” says Kevin.

‘Paathai’, by Mr Kev

‘Paathai’, by Mr Kev

“It was 2021 by the time I reached Baidurjya, who managed to pull off the soul of the song: the guitar solo. One of a kind and a rare specimen it was,” gushes Kevin, adding, “One of my favourites in this has to be the drum production [by Vinay] with a tastefully placed polyrhythm by Kashy on the post chorus/solo, and the choice of having an atmospheric guitar fill.” 

He concludes with: “’Paathai’ does seem a little generic and loop-like in retrospect, but I love the small interludes and changes we get to bring in with the production. It Isn’t a milestone for the music it brings, but for our ability to have a song that lets us play to our strong suits.

Indie musician Roopini Ravindran

Indie musician Roopini Ravindran

While Kevin and team created and recreated the magic together in Chennai, Roopini Ravindran’s gentle Hindi-Urdu track, ‘Shayad mai hun’ (Maybe I am), was a collaboration of KM Music Conservatory alumni based in multiple cities. 

Across borders and time

Roopini shuttles between Bengaluru and Chennai, depending on where her music takes her. “I moved back to India from London in the beginning of last year. When the lockdowns were relaxed there, the only thing my sister and I could do was go on long drives together. At that point, travelling by car felt like a relief. When I came to India, though, travelling by car was a daunting process. The idea for my song stemmed from this, travel as wanderlust versus travel as a reason for anxiety.”

Roopini reached out to her batchmate Pranav, who had moved to the US, to take this idea forward. The lyricist Brijesh Joshi, who also plays and writes for the band Bombay Bandook, was based in Mumbai, while the mastering was done by Nitin Muralikrishna based in Pune. “People were shifting houses and moving countries throughout the production period. Though we were all good friends, none of us were able to meet while creating this song,” says Roopini. And yet, she calls the entire process “seamless”, with lyrics typed over WhatsApp and tunes set over video call. “We wanted to create a song you can play endlessly on a long drive,” says Roopini, “And I think we have managed to achieve it.”



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